Australia will open its borders to all vaccinated tourists and business travelers from February 21 in a further easing of pandemic restrictions.
Australia imposed some of the world’s toughest travel restrictions on its citizens and permanent residents in March 2020 to prevent them from bringing Covid-19 home.
When border restrictions were eased in November in response to rising vaccination rates among the Australian population, international students and skilled migrants were given priority over tourists to be welcomed into Australia.
The country’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his senior ministers agreed on Monday that the border would reopen to all vaccinated visa holders from February 21.
Mr Morrison said visitors must have proof of vaccination. He referred to the deportation of Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic by the Australian government last month because he was not vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“The events at the beginning of the year should have sent a very clear message, I think, to everyone in the world that it is the obligation to enter Australia,” Mr Morrison said.
The Djokovic case demonstrated that visitors who obtain visas through an automated process before departing for Australia do not guarantee that they will meet entry requirements upon arrival.
Home Secretary Karen Andrews said visitors who could provide proof of a medical reason why they could not be vaccinated could apply for a travel exemption.
Visitors to Australia could also face various states’ Covid-19 rules if traveling through the country.
The strictest border rules are enforced by Western Australia, which covers a third of the island continent.
The state only allows 265 international arrivals per week and requires a 14-day quarantine period.
Australia has delayed reopening its border in stages after two Australians who returned from southern Africa on November 27 became the first to test positive for the Omicron variant.
Arrivals of students and skilled workers have been pushed back two weeks until December 15.
Tour operators have pressured the government to bring tourists back earlier. The Southern Hemisphere summer is in its final month.
The Australian Tourism Export Council, the peak industry body representing the country’s tourism export sector, said tourism operations were eager to rebuild their markets.
Chief Executive Peter Shelley said: “Australian tourism businesses will be delighted to hear that our borders will reopen to all international travellers.
“It has been a long, difficult and desperate road for all tourism businesses across the country and we have lost many along the way, but this news will give those who have survived a clear goal to reach and a starting point. for the reconstruction of industry.”